Tuesday 10-11-2015 - 18:50
On Thursday 29 October, I was delighted to attend the parliamentary reception to celebrate 50 years of Endsleigh Insurance hosted by Wes Streeting MP* on behalf of Endsleigh and NUS.
Endsleigh Insurance was established by NUS to meet the needs of its members. Back in 1965, there was not as much accommodation run by universities and polytechnics, large numbers of students lived in ‘digs’, renting rooms from local people. The rooms were of varying quality, and most student found they could not insure their possessions, indeed as most students were under the age of 21, entering into any kind of contract of this sort was difficult, students who owned cars either paid a large premium or just were not insured.
NUS were approached by an insurance company in 1964 with proposals to act on behalf of NUS as their official insurance service. The NUS leaders of the time took advice from Mike Naylor, a former Theology student from Nottingham University, who was working as a Life Insurance Salesperson. He took the view that if the insurance company was so keen then it would be to NUS’ advantage to establish its own company. The decision was made and Mike Naylor was asked to lead the new company Endsleigh Insurance (Brokers) Ltd. It came into being on the 13 August 1965, its name taken from Endsleigh Street in London, NUS’ headquarters. From the outset, the Board of Directors was led by the NUS President.
The company expanded quickly and by the late sixties could boast 40 office sites on campuses and in city centres across the country. Naylor and his team harnessed the purchasing power of the expanding NUS membership to bring down insurance cover prices. By 1972 the company was in a position to buy premises in Cheltenham, and offer tailor-made policies for students’ unions, their premises and activities. As well as promoting its services to students it was keeping clients after graduation, by 1975 Endsleigh could claim a turnover of £1 million. The company quickly gained a reputation for integrity in a market that often used rather shady methods to sign students up to policies. In 1976 the collapse of NUS’ flagship travel services forced the Executive to sell Endsleigh to cover its liabilities to Goudse Verzekering Maatschaatscappij NV of the Netherlands. NUS retained a small stake in the company and the President and Treasurer continued as members of the Board of Directors; Mike Naylor remained as Chief Executive and oversaw the growth of Endsleigh throughout the 80s as the company expanded from its student base in the graduate market developing a retail chain of over 100 shops, a long way from the small office under the stairs in Endsleigh Street where Naylor had started the company. Commercial relationships were established with NASUWT and the AUT as the company continued to expand. In 1982, NUS bought back a 14 per cent shareholding, providing a stable source of income at what was a difficult time financially for NUS.
The close connection to the student movement and the NUS presence on the Board helped Endsleigh to stay at the cutting edge of the industry. The emergence of HIV in the 80s led insurance companies to introduce ‘lifestyle’ questionnaires for young men to complete when applying for insurance. Endsleigh made the case to other insurance companies (through which they brokered their products) that this was discriminatory, they won, changed the practice and very soon the rest of the industry followed suit. Endsleigh also successfully argued for same-sex partner pension rights within the SUSS pension scheme, again others followed where Endsleigh had led. In 1993, Endsleigh moved to a purpose built headquarters near Shurdington - the country atmosphere, lakes and sensitive architecture providing a superb working space. During this period Endsleigh sponsored first Burney Football Club (a passion of Mike Naylor’s and the location of Endsleigh’s other major office complex) and then the league as a whole in 1993. In 1995 Mike Naylor was killed in a car crash near Plaisance in France, a number of other senior colleagues were seriously injured, some permanently. It was a testament to his leadership that the company was not reliant on his drive and energy alone, the people around him took Endsleigh from strength to strength. In 2002, Mike Alcock - the then Managing Director - led a management buyout that saw Endsleigh transfer from Gouda to Zurich Financial Services, who now wholly own the company.
Endsleigh has, over the years, always remembered its roots - it remains close to and responsive to NUS and students’ unions. Endsleigh provide approximately £2 million every year in support and sponsorship for the movement and NUS through numerous local initiatives as well as national projects like the NUS Officer Training Programme and the NUS Awards. Its staff are always prepared to provide help and support to their peers in the student movement. Speaking on behalf of the National President, Megan Dunn who was unfortunately unable to attend the event, I thanked Endsleigh for their long and enduring support of NUS and the movement, and congratulated everybody involved in Endsleigh on their 50th birthday. All of us at NUS look forward to many more years of excellent collaborative fun and adventure for the benefit of students and the student movement.
You can find out more about Endsleigh online at www.endsleigh.co.uk and learn more about their 50 years of history here.
*with thanks to Wes Streeting for hosting the event and to Mike Day for providing me with the detail of the history.